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Tech Researcher Presents Self-Healing Materials Work In D.C.

SOCORRO, N.M. March 4, 2010 – Akshin Bakhtiyarov, a Tech graduate and current Bureau of Geology GIS Technician, was selected to present research at a Department of Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C. Bakhtiyarov was one of only 20 researchers selected to both display a poster and present his research.

Akshin Bakhtiyarov in a mechanical engineering laboratory at New Mexico Tech. The Tech grad and Bureau of Geology employee will present his research in self-healing metals at a Department of Homeland Security conference in mid-March.

“This is a great opportunity for me to be involved in such a highly regarded group,” he said.

A 2009 graduate with a master’s in mechanical engineering, Bakhtiyarov will present his research titled, “Thermally Activated Self-Healing Phenomenon in Metal/Metal/Ceramic High Temperature Coating Systems.” The conference is the Fourth Annual U.S. Department of Homeland Security University Network Summit and is from March 10 to 12.

One of his advisors Dr. Nadir Yilmaz said he’s not surprised that Bakhtiyarov was selected to present research.

“He has already proven that he’s a good researcher,” Yilmaz said. “This invitation is even more proof. They just choose very high quality research papers and his project is one of the best in his field.”

Bakhtiyarov has found that chromium is a key additive to iron-aluminum alloys that creates a “self-healing” material. His research has practical applications in aerospace applications, where cracked surfaces can be costly and even fatal. He has also found that the addition of specific amounts of chromium will allow manufacturers to design more ductile alloys and coating composites.

Metals can be constructed to be “self-healing” with an outer coating of composite materials. When heated, the outer layer fills cracks, thus extending the life of the base material. Bakhtiyarov said the concept of self-healing materials is inspired by biology and anatomy. He compared the process to the way human skin heals; a scar may form, but the material returns to its original strength. 

Yilmaz said Bakhtiyarov’s research has potential uses in virtually any field of mechanical engineering.

“Any area that deals with cracks, fatigue, failures and aging – self-healing processes could be very helpful in so many fields,” Yilmaz said.

Bakhtiyarov’s research is a prime example of interdisciplinary study. He started with chemistry, mathematics and physics – examining the base material and devising alloys that would serve as effective coating materials. After analyzing and modeling how the coating layer would react, he tested the materials in a high-temperature furnace. He also used wavelength dispersive spectrometry to characterize the materials, examine how the coating fills cracks and to test the resulting strength of the “healed” material.

“The elements we use have to go well with aluminum and other materials,” he said. “The coating layer has to work well with the base material. We made a chemical structure to see which ones work better. That was mostly theoretical procedure. Then, we created the coat itself and experimented with it.”

Most importantly, Bakhtiyarov aims to find cost-effective methodology and materials. “This research can make aerospace and airplanes safer. Small structural defects won’t bring planes down.”

His method and materials could be implemented for tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle. Self-healing material engineering is a young but robust field. A select few scientists are developing this new technology.

“This is the top echelon, research-wise,” Bakhtiyarov said. “Not too many people have come up with experimental work as we have done. Self-healing materials haven’t been applied in industry yet. It’s a new technology and everybody wants more experimentation before they start using it.”

Yilmaz said Bakhtiyarov’s research is potentially worthy of a patent. He said the combination of the process and the material represent significant breakthroughs.

“You cannot divide the material from the process,” he said. “But it could all be patented with some more experimentation.”

This project results has been also presented to Boeing engineers in Seattle and also was selected to present at the 2nd Annual International Conference on Self-Healing Materials in Chicago in June 2009. His research has been funded through awards from the American Institute of Aerospace and Aerodynamics and NASA. He has also been named a Chevron Scholar twice, AIAA scholar winner and also NASA EPSCoR scholar winner.

A native of Azerbaijan, Bakhtiyarov earned his bachelor’s at Auburn University. His father, Dr. Sayavur Bahktiyarov, is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tech. His research advisors are Dr. Nadir Yilmaz and Dr. Seokbin Lim, both of the mechanical engineering department.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech